Emerald Bay District to Contact State About Late Compensation Report

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The general manager of a coastal Orange County water and sewage district has said he will contact the state controller’s office on Friday about an overdue employee compensation report, following a Voice of OC report last week that the agency is months late in filing the disclosure.

The Emerald Bay Service District hasn’t yet provided the disclosure for 2011, which was due last year.

“I’ll contact the state controller’s office,” Mike Dunbar, the district’s general manager, said on Wednesday. “I had no idea it was due.”

Dunbar said the district didn’t have any employees in 2011. The general manager at that time, Toni Schmidt, was not employed directly by the district but by the private Emerald Bay Community Association, Dunbar said.

“She worked for the community association,” said Dunbar, who replaced Schmidt last October. “Even though the service district had its own board of directors, they contracted with the community association for certain services and certain employees.”

Meanwhile, the controller’s office said the reports are mandatory.

“Yes, you are required to file regardless of your personnel roll,” controller’s office spokesman Jacob Roper wrote in an email, adding that the district’s board members are considered employees.

Asked why he didn’t file the report, Dunbar said, “You’re asking a dumb question,” adding that he started at the district in October after the original due date. That due date was ultimately extended to the end of 2012.

The district did file a report for 2010 listing the five unpaid board members.

Formed in 1960, the agency handles water, sewage, storm drain and lifeguard services for about 500 homes in the Emerald Bay gated community just north of Laguna Beach. It collects about $1.8 million per year in property taxes and contracts many of its services out to the homeowners association.

Dunbar said he’s paid an $86,000 salary, plus about $3,200 per year for his son’s medical and dental coverage. “I’m the lowest-paid of the managers in Orange County,” he said.

Among his duties as general manager, Dunbar said, he oversees the agency’s contracts, including public bidding for work on curbs and gutters.

As for whether the agency’s board meetings inside a gated community are open to the general public as required by law, Dunbar said he believed they are.

“That’s a good question,” said Dunbar. “If you wanted to attend one of our meetings and you told our gate guards that you wanted to attend the meeting, I’m sure they would let you in.”

The district does not have its own website, and its budget and meeting information isn’t available anywhere online. Dunbar, however, said he’s in the process of starting up a website for the district.

In the meantime, Dunbar said, meeting notices are posted at a bulletin board within the gated community.

Board meetings are typically held at 5:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the Emerald Bay Community Center, 600 Emerald Bay.

At their next meeting on Aug. 26, board members are scheduled to vote on the district’s 2013-14 budget.

The district has built up a cash reserve of around $2.8 million, which Dunbar said is slated for improving the neighborhood’s main gate. The project involves widening the road and enhancing sight distances and medians.

As for claims that water agencies are poorly run, Dunbar said officials don’t get enough credit for ensuring that residents get a reliable water supply.

“Most water and sewer districts in Orange County are well-run [and] provide excellent service to their constituents,” he said.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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